Have you ever received an email from a friend, saying they got robbed while traveling, asking for money to come back home? Only it clearly wasn’t your friend since you saw them just yesterday and they usually don’t make as many spelling mistakes. At this point, it’s obvious their email account got hacked.
But it’s not always so clear. How can you tell if your email was hacked? What should you do if it happened? And what measures can you take to prevent it from happening in the future? Read on to find out.
Signs that your email has been hacked
If you can’t log in, it’s obvious that someone hacked your account and changed the password. But a lot of times, people might not even notice anything. Luckily, there are a few ways you can check if someone’s been logging into your email.
Most email providers will let you check your account’s sign-in history. It will show IP, device, location, date, and time of all the latest log-ins. If there are some that you can’t recognize, it’s highly likely that someone else is using your account to send spam or gather information about you.
Look for strange activity in your inbox. If you receive a lot of emails every day and leave most of them unread, chances are you missed something important. Go over all the messages from the last few days/weeks and check if there are any password reset emails from your other accounts. If there are, and you don’t remember requesting a password reset, immediately take action to recover those accounts.
Another thing to check is your sent emails. See if there are any that you are sure you didn’t send. Hackers might use your email to send spam or phishing emails to your contacts. If there’s nothing suspicious in your Sent folder, check the Trash. An intruder will most likely delete any emails they send from your account, but there’s a slight chance they might forget to remove them from the Trash folder. Again, if you see something out of the ordinary, make sure to secure all affected accounts.
What to do after you find out your email has been hacked?
If you have the slightest suspicion that your email might have been hacked, change the password immediately. It can’t hurt; besides, changing the password of your email account from time to time is an essential part of good password hygiene.
In case you find yourself locked out of your account, you’ll need to reset the password. Click the “Forgot my password” button and follow the instructions. If you can’t reset it, contact your email provider with all the details as soon as possible.
Next, change the password of all online accounts associated with your email. Any of them could be compromised, so don’t skip this step, even if you don’t notice any strange activity in your other accounts.
Once you’re at it, make the passwords uncrackable. Use our password generator to create strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. The longer and more complex they are, the better. Make sure no two accounts have the same password!
Set up two-factor authentication. If you don’t already have it, it’s about time you started using it, at least with your primary email account. If you already use it, change the second factor. If someone managed to break into your email account even with 2FA on, you might have fallen victim to phone porting or smishing. Using a hardware token is one of the best ways to protect your account, so consider getting one.
Notify your contacts. You never know what emails the attacker might have sent to your friends and coworkers, pretending to be you. It’s best to let everyone know that your account has recently been compromised and warn them against clicking on any links in your recent emails.
Use a password manager. It is the safest way to store passwords because they are encrypted with uncrackable algorithms and kept in the cloud — no one but you can use them. Besides, after you’ve generated those random passwords for all your accounts, you will need help remembering them all.